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Fire station designer named

Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue has hired a Portland architect firm to design and oversee construction of a remodel to convert the unused Columbia View Heights fire station into a manned station.

The fire district board awarded a contract for $40,518 at its March meeting to Peck, Smiley, Ettlin Architects.

The district had eight firms inquire about the project, but just two proposals, said Fire Chief Bob Palmer. PSE, as the firm is known, was picked because it was not only the low bidder, but also had the most experience and was the only company that attended a pre-proposal conference.

The firm is slated to have drawings ready by June, and the expectation is that a contractor hired to do the work by the end of July. If all goes well, the project will be substantially done by the end of November, Palmer said.

The funds for the remodel of the Columbia View Heights station, known as Station 2, came from funds paid to The Dalles and Wasco County by Design LLC as part of a tax abatement agreement on construction of a new data storage center at the Google campus in The Dalles.

From an initial payment to city and county of $1.2 million, $484,000 was earmarked for the fire district.

The conversion of Station 2 into a manned station has been on the fire district’s radar for some time. The district’s insurance rating was downgraded in 2008, in part because it had only one manned station. The decreased rating has translated into higher insurance costs for homeowners and businesses.

Restoring that rating is a key factor in the project.

Plans for the upgrade of Station 2 include adding four one-person dorm rooms, a fitness room, living area, kitchen and dining room, office area and a radio room.

Two of the existing four fire bays would be converted into living quarters and a new fire bay would be added to the south end of the building, for a new total of three fire bays.

Station 2 is now at about 3,750 square feet and a remodel would add another 800 square feet, for a new total of 4,550 square feet. The main fire district building is about 23,000 square feet.

The fire district had a feasibility study done on remodeling Station 2 before the Google money came along. The study estimated the remodel at about $500,000.

Because the money is coming from the city and county, the fire district must get approval from both entities at several points in the process. First, the fire district has to write a report prior to soliciting bids for a contractor, explaining the proposed improvements and how they will address issues that caused the downgraded fire rating.

Then the district cannot issue an advertisement for bids for the construction until the city and county have agreed to it. Finally, the district has to give the city and county a report summarizing the bids received before it can award a bid.

The city and county have 30 days to respond to the reports.

Palmer said the reporting requirements are attached to the money because it is effectively a grant to the fire district from the city and county.

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